Calvin Ridley made a courageous announcement Sunday on social media as the wide receiver decided to step away from football and the Atlanta Falcons to focus on his mental health.
The 26-year old was declared inactive earlier in the day for the Falcons game against the Carolina Panthers with a personal matter.
Ridley became the Falcons' main receiver this season after the franchise traded longtime star wide receiver Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans following changes on the coaching staff and the front office. He has 281 receiving yards and two touchdowns in five games this season.
Why is Calvin Ridley stepping away from football?
Ridley announced on his Twitter that, even though he wants to help the Falcons right now, the best thing he can do right now is focus on his mental health. The receiver released a statement about the matter:
"These past few weeks have been very challenging and as much as I'd like to be on the field competing with my teammates, I need to step away from football at this time and focus on my mental wellbeing. This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future. I want to thank my teammates, the entire Atlanta Falcons organization, our great fans, my friends, and my family for all of their support during this time".
Mental health is a very important topic that has come to light in recent years after losing some of its stigma. Some important players have taken time away from the game to resolve some of their own matters: Brandon Brooks revealed in 2016 that he was suffering from anxiety and lost some games that season as he was a star guard for the Philadelphia Eagles.
This year, tackle Lane Johnson, also from the Philadelphia Eagles, stepped aside from the team for some weeks to resolve what was described as a 'personal matter'. When Johnson returned, he announced that he was dealing with anxiety and depression and went back to Oklahoma to treat these problems.
NFL debuted a mental health awareness initiative in May
The league knows the power and the platform that star athletes have to bring awareness to important problems, and back in May, the NFL launched the May's Mental Health Awareness Month. It included lots of well-known players such as Joey Bosa, D.J. Chark, Hayden Hurst and Solomon Thomas, talking about their struggles with mental health.
Football can be a game where power, grit and toughness are fundamentals on any given Sunday. That doesn't mean players like Ridley, Brooks or Johnson aren't real people either. They have emotions and struggles like all of us, and this can't be diminished by money or fame.